Is your child starting school this September? Here are some things you absolutely *shouldn’t* do.
It’s been two years since my once tiny newborn daughter wandered across the playground into the classroom for the first time, with an anxiously excited look on her face, wearing her brand new, too big uniform, while I waved her off and pretended not to sob behind my sunglasses. Then went home to a house that was empty of her, and not-sobbed some more. And then picked her up a whole two hours later, exhausted from all the not-sobbing (me, not her).
And then I really cried the next day when I realised we had to do it over and over again, twice a day, fine times a week, until then end of what seems like time.
If your child is starting school this September, then you’ve probably read a lot of ‘what to do’ lists. Mainly consisting of tips like ‘get everything ready the night before!’ (It’ll still be chaos). And ‘arrive in the playground early so they can play with their new pals’ (Good luck with that one).
What no-one tells you is that school is a battlefield of tests and trials. For you. Your child will be absolutely, brilliantly fine though.
So here’s what you should not do, when your child starts school:
Have any hope of leaving the house easily, on time: Especially if you have more than one child. Leaving the house with one small child is difficult, but add another child into the mix? It’s nigh-on impossible. Especially if they are a toddler. It increases the potential for something to go wrong by a million-fold, meaning you’ll be probably be avoiding being late by the skin of your hastily brushed teeth. School is the hard stop. There’s no swanning in to school when you like, unlike at nursery, where they will happily bring out the red carpet and a bespoke breakfast for you at any time of the day. And unlike playgroup, you can’t just decide not to go because it’s raining or you’re too tired to walk two minutes up the road. Not only that but for school they have to wear specific clothes and take things in with them, like PE kits and water bottles and brushed teeth and hair. And you also have a second child, who in all likelihood will refuse to get dressed because it’s Wednesday, or because the blue spoon isn’t yellow. The parenting the odds are stacked against you, mama. Sorry.
Expect to find anything out about their day: Honestly? Nothing.
Believe the ‘school run style’ hype: Whole industries are built on school run style, that elusive cool casual, minimal effort, maximum ‘just got out of bed this chic’ look. Here’s the truth, though: no-one cares what you wear, unless your child goes to school on Mumsnet. At morning drop-off, everyone’s too busy rushing to not be late. At evening drop-off, everyone’s so desperately trying to find someone to talk to so they don’t look like they have no-one to talk to, to notice. Wear what you like (even if that includes leather trousers and a full face of make up). It’ll probably be raining though, as it always does on the school run.
Buy the wrong uniform; I’m not taking about the actual main uniform (says the person who panic bought the wrong summer dress on the second day of term) but socks, which are the devil’s work. White ones, in particular. Find out if your child can wear any colour other than them, or you’ll be constantly battling off the greys with all the tips, tricks and stain removers that you can google up at 3am. That still don’t work.
Not take a snack to pick-up: Your child will bite your hand off, then happily gnaw on it.
Become the late benchmark family: The late benchmark families are the ones who, if you see them arrive before you, make you realise that you are really late. If you become the late benchmark family you will have no late benchmark for yourself. You can test if you are other people’s late benchmark family by turning up at school early one day, and see the horror on their faces as you greet them going in to school while you’re going out. I speak as the voice of experience here, obviously.
Worry about doing something wrong: Because you probably will, anyway. There are so many things to know / do / remember, it’s inevitable some balls will drop. Hopefully you won’t forget to pick your child up though. You / me, it’s still my greatest fear.
Do the school run on a hangover: it’s horrible, it hurts. You have to a) get everyone out of the house, on time and b) make small talk to the teaching assistant while it’s still tricky to stand up. Will you learn your lesson the first time you do it? Probably not. Sunglasses at the ready…